by Kevin Muller
“Well, that movie was fucked up!”
That was the first thing that my friend said as the ending credits rolled on the screen. There is no denying that the new Nicolas Cage movie Mandy is a trip. It feels like a movie tailored to that over exuberant energy that we all have come to associate with the Academy Award winning actor. The question is, is it a trip worth taking?
In the film, Cage plays Red Miller, a stoic lumberjack who is dating the film’s title character, played by Andrea Riseborough. Both of them live a secluded life in a cabin in the woods. She is an artist who also works at the local convenience store to support their modest life. While walking to work one day, she catches the eye of a crazed religious leader, Sand Jeremiah, who becomes obsessed with obtaining her. Unfortunately, her abduction, and her lack of seriousness to both his religion and sexual advances, causes her to die in the most horrific way possible. Oh, and Red has a front row seat to the gruesome death of the woman he loved. From there, it becomes a revenge tale that is unlike anything you have seen.
Director and co-writer, Panos Costamos, has created a film that can be best described as the stuff of nightmares. Every single aspect of this picture has been dipped into the darkest parts of someone’s mind, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t beautiful. From the first frame, Costamos and his cinematographer, Benjamin Loeb, present us with a world with vibrant colors that seem to make the madness feel even more unhinged. Cage, who has always had expressive features, especially his crazy eyes, benefits from the choices in cinematography. There are certain shots where we perfectly see Red’s inner descent into madness through the combination of Loeb’s cinematography and Cage’s performance. Where the movie really shines though is through its soundtrack, composed by the recently deceased Johann Johannson. The tracks build upon his director’s otherworld feel with both angelic and hardcore arrangements. Even if you dislike the film, it is one that’s world will stick with you way after the credits role.
On top of the beautiful work behind the scenes, the actors do a wonderful job at inhabiting this world. The film’s sinister villain, Sand Jeremiah, is downright evil, sadistic, and cruel right down to his bones. Linus Roache gives us one of the best baddies to come along in sometime. There’s vacancy is his eyes that completely feels real. As with his performance, each of his followers possess that same vacantness in their speech, eyes, and overall sense of self. These feel like people you wouldn’t want to cross in the wilderness, or even in the middle of a densely populated suburb. This is really Cage’s film though. Red isn’t a character who goes through a momentous change in the film, but a man who is just hell bent on destroying everyone who took his love’s life. The peak of his performance comes when he finally lets out the horror, frustration, and rage after seeing Mandy’s death. It is the essential Nic Cage moment, but perfectly encapsulates Red’s inner torment. Once he starts taking these guys down, one by one, it is just a free for all with gore, violence, and utter darkness.
The film isn’t without its faults though. It is extremely polarizing, which is both its strength and weakness. The film does get too over the top at points and certain parts of it flies off the rails. This causes certain parts of the story not to be clear or make any sense. It doesn’t ease you into this world, but throws you right into the middle of it. Your tolerance also depends on your admiration for Cage. If you don’t care for him, this film will not convert you to be a fan of his because he is let loose here.
Mandy for its minor faults, is one hell of a ride. For everyone always complaining about nothing original coming out of Hollywood, I dare you to watch this one. Even if you don’t like it, it really is a beast of its own that will burn images inside your mind. You can’t say that about most films. Postamos has gotten the best out of his lead actor, seriously, this is his best performance in years, and created an unforgettable world where hope comes to die.
I am giving Mandy a 4.5 out of 5 Hair Pieces!